Pasta Soup with Potatoes and Pancetta

This pasta soup with potatoes and pancetta is a traditional Italian soup made with potatoes, carrots, and leeks, tender pasta and diced pancetta. Hearty cold-weather comfort food.

A white bowl filled with pasta soup with potatoes and pancetta on a linen cloth with a spoon resting on the edge of the bowl.

Many people would never associate pasta and potato, but in this case, you’re really going to have to trust me. This recipe has been in my family for more than 50 years, and considering that so far there’ve been two chefs in the family, it must be fantastico! Make sure you use a mealy potato like a russet. [Editor’s Note: The word “mealy” in conjunction with potatoes may, for some, have undesirable associations. Although in this recipe, mealy is actually quite coveted given the lovely richness and thickness it lends to the consistency of this soup, which makes everyone we know rave.]–Gino D’Acampo

Can I swap bacon for pancetta?

We’ve a wee caveat to share with anyone tempted to substitute bacon for pancetta in this pantry-minded recipe. While that swap works in some recipes, we don’t encourage trying it here. Pancetta’s sturdy texture and meatiness handily withstand being simmered in this soupy stew without becoming limpid and soggy. Sadly, the same can’t be said about bacon, which turns flabby. Save it for frying up in a pan.

Pasta Soup with Potatoes, Pancetta and Leeks

  • Quick Glance
  • (3)
  • 25 M
  • 45 M
  • Serves 6
5/5 - 3 reviews
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In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Toss in the leek and pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes. 

Add the carrot and potato and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for another 2 minutes.

Pour in the stock, lower the heat, and simmer gently, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the pasta and continue to cook over low heat, uncovered, stirring every 2 minutes, until the pasta is al dente, about 6 minutes.

When the pasta is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Immediately ladle the soup into bowls. Originally published January 15, 2013.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

I was actually surprised at just how much we liked this soup. It was extremely quick and easy to put together. Using top-quality ingredients, in a recipe where the ingredient list is not long, really made this dish taste fresh, clean, and pure.

I had questioned how the pancetta would cook by just sautéing it for 3 minutes with the leeks and then another 2 minutes with the potatoes. I use pancetta quite often, and usually cook the pancetta till it is brown or caramelized. I was concerned that I would not like the result, but wanted to try the recipe as written. This is another case of needing to have an open mind. The pancetta in the finished product was more like some very, very good ham which imparted great flavor to the broth.

I used a really good organic chicken broth that comes in a quart carton container that I keep around for when we do not have homemade stock.

Throwing the Parm in off the heat at the end really added to the wonderful taste and texture. The chopped canned tomatoes seemed like an afterthought. I don't know if it was mostly to add a touch of color, because that small amount of tomatoes in 2 quarts of stock, along with the vegetables, doesn't really make a difference in taste. However, the end result was so good, that I may just throw in just the 3 tablespoons when I make this again, and I will make it again.

The only change I made to the recipe, was throwing a piece of Parmesan rind in when I added the broth to the pot. We have a bag of Parmesan rinds in the freezer, and this seemed like a good time to use one. It was!

Excellent! This is a very simple recipe that is easy to follow with exceptional results.

I would caution the cook to go easy on the "salt to taste". Leave it a little bit lacking until after you add the parmesan cheese or you risk making it too salty.

I think that you could use Yukon gold or another less starchy potato for some texture without losing any taste. (Just a thought.)


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  1. Country ham is a good substitute for cooked recipes calling for a dab of prosciutto or pancetta. It can’t be sliced elegantly like prosciutto and is saltier than pancetta, but it isn’t smoked and adds a good flavor. I think it would work in this soup. I am a long distance from a store with fine meats, and have learned to make do.

  2. I made this soup last night using Pancetta from my local friends at Corti Brothers. The flavor was marvelous and we thoroughly enjoyed it on its own for dinner on a rainy night. I do wish I had let the pancetta cook to a bit more of a crisp state and would do so next time.

    Also, I’m not sure if I added a bit too much pasta, but by day 2, the leftovers had transformed into a sort of a pasta dish rather than a soup. The pasta had sucked up all of the broth, as pasta is wont to do. Therefore, I might also reduce the amount of pasta next time for the sake of leftovers.

    1. Yes, Stacy, that pasta can suck up all the broth. I would try your suggestion of adding less pasta or have a few friends over and finish it in one sitting!

  3. I made this for dinner tonight and we all LOVED it. Went by the recipe except added a few more tablespoons of chopped tomatoes, a squirt of tomato paste (the tube kind), and a Parmesan rind. I weighed the dry pasta to make sure the amount was correct, but it did seem like there wasn’t enough broth for everything else that was left. Fortunately I used homemade chicken stock, so it was easy to add some to the broth after the fact and I’m sure the taste wasn’t altered. The other thing that was interesting was our spoons got pretty gummy about halfway through the bowlful of suop, apparently because of thePparmesan. But I’m not sure if it was because I simmered it with a rind or because of the grated Parmesan that was added at the end. It wasn’t a big deal—but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that before. If it was because of the Parm at the end, I’m wondering if it could be because what I used was finely grated in the food processor rather than a more coarse grate/shred? Anyway, thanks to the previous reviews, I strained the broth from the other ingredients and so have two beautiful containers in my fridge right now, ready to be joined together in delicious matrimony for tomorrow’s lunch:) Thanks for another great recipe!

    1. Emilie, many thanks for taking the time to drop us a note. So pleased to hear that you like the soup. As for the spoon situation, it could be either or both reasons you suggest. I’ve experienced that with other soups when I’ve simmered them with a Parmesan rind and left the rind in until it was really gummy and had given up all its flavor. Anyone else have this experience? And Emilie, we look forward to hearing which recipe you make next….

      1. I already know which one I’m going to make next, Renee. The chocolate sour cream bundt cake. Tomorrow. It’s one of my go-to cakes (so easy…so chocolaty…so everything!!). I was thinking just tonight when I slurped my last spoonful of soup how that would be the perfect finish to the meal. Plus it just gets better the longer it sits!!

  4. What a wonderful soup, and so representative, too, of the cucina casalinga, home cooking, of Italy. I remember soups like this as a kid. When I’d see the brodo di pollo come out of the freezer and spy Mom’s big orange pot on the stove and smell the pancetta browning, I know there was zuppa in the future. It might have been pasta e fagioli, pasta e ceci, or any one of a number of these marvels, but it was always satisfying to both stomach and soul, and that kiss of tomato, so typical of Italy’s Mezzogiorno, always added just the right flavor note. Grazie per le memorie!

    1. It’s our pleasure, AdriBarr. Was worth it just to hear you reminisce about your Mom making zuppa…what a wonderful upbringing you had! Many thanks for sharing it with such enthusiasm and eloquence….

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